Neurofeedback Effects on Evoked and Induced EEG Gamma Band Reactivity to Drug-Related Cues in Cocaine Addiction


  • Timothy Horrell
  • Ayman El-Baz
  • Joshua Baruth
  • Allan Tasman
  • Guela Sokhadze
  • Christopher Stewart
  • Estate Sokhadze



Introduction. Preoccupation with drug and drug-related items is a typical
characteristic of cocaine addicted individuals. It has been shown in multiple accounts that prolonged drug use has a profound effect on the EEG recordings of drug addicts when compared to controls during cue reactivity tests. Cue reactivity refers to a phenomenon in which individuals with a history of drug abuse exhibit excessive psychophysiological responses to cues associated with their drug of choice. One of the aims of this pilot study was to determine the presence of an attentional bias to preferentially process drug-related cues using evoked and induced gamma reactivity measures in cocaine addicts before and after biobehavioral treatment based on neurofeedback. Another aim was to show that central sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) amplitude increase and frontal theta control is possible in an experimental outpatient drug users group over 12 neurofeedback sessions. Method. Ten current cocaine abusers participated in this pilot research study using neurofeedback combined with Motivational Interviewing sessions. Eight of them completed all planned pre- and post-neurofeedback cue reactivity tests with event-related EEG recording and clinical evaluations. Cue reactivity test represented a visual oddball task with images from the International Affective Picture System and drug-related pictures. Evoked and induced gamma responses to target and nontarget drug cues were analyzed using wavelet analysis. Results. Outpatient participants with cocaine addiction completed the biobehavioral intervention and successfully increased SMR while keeping theta practically unchanged in 12 sessions of neurofeedback training. The addition of Motivational Interviewing helped retain patients in the study. Clinical evaluations immediately after completion of the treatment showed decreased self-reports on depression and stress scores, and urine tests collaborated reports of decreased use of cocaine and marijuana. Effects of neurofeedback resulted in a lower EEG gamma reactivity to drug-related images in a postneurofeedback cue reactivity test. In particular, evoked gamma showed decreases in power to nontarget and to a lesser extent target drug-related cues at all topographies (left, right, frontal, parietal, medial, inferior), whereas induced gamma power decreased globally to both target and nontarget drug cues. Our findings supported our hypothesis that gamma band cue reactivity measures are sufficiently sensitive functional outcomes of neurofeedback treatment. Both evoked and induced gamma measures were found capable to detect changes in responsiveness to both target and nontarget drug cues. Conclusion. Our study emphasizes the utility of cognitive neuroscience methods based on EEG gamma band measures for the assessment of the functional outcomes of neurofeedback-based biobehavioral interventions for cocaine use disorders. This approach may have significant potential for identifying both physiological and clinical markers of treatment progress. The results confirmed our prediction that EEG changes achieved with neurofeedback training will be accompanied by positive EEG outcomes in a cue reactivity and clinical improvements.